The Great White Shark, AKA White Death or White Pointer, is one of the most feared-as well as mysterious and fascinating-ocean predators known to man. Aside from facts such as their life expectancy (believed to be 30 years or more) how big they are capable of growing (the largest great white shark ever captured and measured was 21 feet long, but credible reports of much longer sharks exist), a lot of basic information about great whites is largely unknown. What is known is that sharks are old enough to predate trees, and that they have been beaten the odds of evolution for hundreds of millions of years, evolving into the largest predatory fish in the world.
What is also known is that great white sharks are resistant to infections, circulatory disease, and for the most part, cancer. They heal rapidly from serious wounds, and can detect a .005 millivolt electrical impulses from their prey’s heartbeat from hundreds of yards away. And they are very capable of deadly attacks on man.
Carcharodon carcharias, the scientific name for great white sharks, are indeed an interesting animal. They are typically 11-16 feet long, and have several rows of triangular teeth with serrated edges like a steak knife. The top rows are used for cutting and slicing prey, while the bottom rows are used to grab. The front rows of teeth move into place as the front teeth break or fall out. The great white’s voracious appetite has been well documented: license plates, a cuckoo clock, a buffalo head, lobster traps, a fur cape, an entire reindeer…this is just one of many interesting facts about the great white shark. However, most great whites prefer to eat are seals and sea lions. Many an attack on wetsuit-clad surfers is believed to be the sharks mistaking them for seals, which surfers vaguely resemble from beneath the surface. However, one has a greater chance of being killed by a dog or cattle in any given year than they are by a great white shark.
Great white sharks tend to live in most coastal temperate waters, but are most prevalent off the coastlines of South Africa, Australia, from California to Alaska, the East Coast of the U.S., areas in and around the Gulf Coast, Hawaii, most of South America, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean Sea. Although once thought to be primarily coastal inhabitants, recent satellite tracking systems show that they often migrate long distances, sometimes traversing entire ocean basins. Great whites have the ability to maintain certain body parts (brain, stomach, swimming muscles) at temperatures above that of the surrounding water, which classifies them as warm-blooded, like mammals. Probably due to this unusual characteristic, the white sharks occupy one of the largest geographic ranges of any marine animal.
Great whites, which are for the most part solitary hunters, have been gifted by nature with various anatomical features that make them such efficient and deadly killers. Although great white sharks typically hunt their prey visually, they also have a very acute sense of smell, which allows it to detect the scent of blood in the water from up to five kilometers away. Their distinct coloring –bluish-gray on the top half of their body and white on the bottom half, works as great camouflage in the blue-gray ocean water so they can barely be seen before striking from below. Their large, powerful torpedo-like body, pointed snout and strategically designed tail allow them to build massive amounts of energy and strength when attacking their chosen target that the first pass usually stuns or kills their prey immediately (survivors of shark attacks have described it as feeling like being hit by a car). The shark often swims a short distance away so that its victim slowly bleeds to death before it returns to finish the job. This brief interlude has allowed for many potential victims to escape and live to tell their tale of surviving an attack from a great white shark.View More...